November 22, 2010

"A Landmark Moment"

Photo by David Albers, Naples Daily News.

On November 16, at a press conference in Immokalee, the CIW and the Florida Tomato Growers Exchange signed an agreement to extend the CIW's Fair Food principles – including a strict code of conduct, a cooperative complaint resolution system, a participatory health and safety program, and a worker-to-worker education process – to over 90% of the Florida tomato industry. You can see the press release from the event here.

The timing of today's announcement couldn't be more appropriate. Not only is Thanksgiving, our annual celebration of the harvest, just around the corner, but so is the 50th anniversary of the 'Harvest of Shame,' the landmark expose of 20th century poverty and degradation in Florida's fields.

Today, 50 years later, hope, not shame, is on the horizon.

With that hope – and with the hard work and solid plan of action included in this agreement – we will make the concrete changes that will allow us to build a stronger, more sustainable Florida tomato industry for the 21st century.
The agreement with the FTGE follows last month's breakthrough agreements with Pacific Tomato Growers and Six L's and paves the way for the virtual industry-wide implementation of the Fair Food program next season (2011-2012).

In the meantime, the onus is now clearly on supermarket chains such as Publix, Kroger, Giant, Stop & Shop, Wal-Mart, and Trader Joe's to step up and support these higher standards with their significant purchasing power. And if the past is any guide, it will ultimately be the organized voice of conscious consumers – taking action alongside Immokalee's farmworkers – that propels these changes. Click here to send an email to the CEOs of these supermarkets demanding Fair Food now!

And for a great analysis of this agreement, check out, "CIW Wrests Historic Agreement from Tomato Growers Group" (Labor Notes, 11/18/10).